(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Very brief descriptions of violence, PTSD.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: What did you do in the war? The Snape Child(ren) comes home from Magical Primary school with a new project: what was life like during Voldemort's return. A few seemingly simple questions open up all sorts of memories and feelings. How do they cope? What do they tell their children?
Note: This was a dream to write! Thank you to both the prompter! And to my Beta reader, jeanjeanvaljean, who puts up with the ridiculous amounts of rewrites I do on... well, everything!
Summary: When Crispin and Attina Snape arrive home from school with a new assignment, Severus and Hermione are overwhelmed with a past they have done their best to put behind them.
"What was the war like?" Crispin Snape asked his parents.
He and his sister, Attina, sat attentively with their quills pressed against parchment waiting for their parents' responses-a perfect imitation of their mother at their age.
If it had not been for the serious line of questioning he and his wife were about to undergo, Severus would have barked in laughter at the caricatures his children had turned into in the short time it had taken for them to announce their assignment, and demand that both Hermione and Severus drop whatever it was they had been doing to begin.
Attina had promptly presented them with a letter from their teacher, unloading her school bag on the dining room table.
The assignment had come in a crisp white envelope addressed to Master and Madame Snape.
His wife had balked at the address and had very nearly cursed.
When Severus and Hermione married, she had been determined to keep her maiden name and he had been of the mind to agree with her. After all, Severus hardly expected that she would agree to marry him after he had fumbled through his prepared proposal and even now, he was often times beside himself with the gift of her hand-her love was more than he had ever hoped to deserve.
While Severus had insisted she stay Hermione Granger, the entirety of their world had not taken her decision her lightly and they insisted on purposeful ignorance, disregarding her wishes by referring to her consistently as Hermione Snape. The Wizarding world had matured greatly in the years since Voldemort's downfall, but her decision was deemed too progressive even still.
The letter opened with a delicate curling script that was far too advanced to belong to either of their children and read:
Master and Madame Snape,
With the 19th anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts approaching, I have sent each of your children home with a new assignment: Did your parents participate in the events of the Second Great Wizarding War? If so, what were their roles? If not, why did they feel it was unnecessary to participate? What was life like during Voldemort's return?
Please answer any questions your children may have as openly as you can. While I have no doubt this subject may be painful for those of us who lived through the War, I do believe we can teach our children to avoid repeating the past through education and open discussion.
If you have any questions or reservations regarding this assignment, please do not hesitant to owl me personally. Otherwise, papers are due at the end of class Friday. I look forward to reading each and every one!
Memorial Primary School for Gifted Witches and Wizards
Immediately, Severus had turned to his wife and said sotto voce, "I believed I had escaped the idiocy of your classmates upon your graduation. Apparently I was mistaken."
Hermione did not respond, knowing the intense scrutiny of their would-be interrogators and chose instead, to shoot him a look of suffering and apology.
Now, they sat facing their children, unable to form a response to what seemed a simple enough question.
Severus opened his mouth and it worked wordlessly for a moment before it shut with an audible snap. Fatherhood had made him soft and his inability to respond, scathingly or otherwise, irritated him beyond comprehension.
Hermione placed a hand on his, small and warm in comparison to his own, reminding him that he was not alone in his effort to form a worthy answer.
In their years of marriage, Hermione had learned what calmed her husband best: gestures of kindness that spoke of uncomplicated intimacy. As a child, he had been denied comfort and as young man, he had purposely starved himself of it, believing himself unworthy due to the sins he had committed. After years of marriage, he still often felt as though he could not possibly deserve her affection and yet, she gave it freely.
"What was the war like?" Hermione echoed their son, sounding just as mystified.
"Yes, mother," Attina Snape replied huffily.
At his daughter's words, Severus could feel his eyebrows nearly disappear into his hairline. Hardly a slip of a girl, and she possessed the attitude of someone twice her age-a trait she had inherited from her mother, though he was wise enough not to make that comment to his wife.
His wife's grip tightened on his hand momentarily and this time, he did snort in amusement.
"The war... is not so easy to explain, Beastie," Severus placated his daughter.
Attina Snape smiled affectionately at her father, exposing a missing canine that had been lost recently, placed beneath her pillow, and traded for a Galleon.
Since the time she had learned to walk, Severus had called her Beastie. She was clever, difficult, and disarmingly mischievous when she felt so inclined. The diminutive was in sharp juxtaposition to her sweet smile, and she adored her father too much not to preen at his special endearment.
"We always knew the day would come when we would have to explain the war and our part in it, but neither of us expected how difficult it would be to illustrate. Your father and I have both done things we regret because of the war-your father fought in both of Tom Riddle's wars and I was hardly older than Crispin when I was drafted into the Second Wizarding War," Hermione said gently.
"As much as it pains both your mother and I to admit, we are woefully unprepared for this conversation." Severus scrubbed his free hand along his face, uncomfortable with his inability to think clearly.
Crispin and Attina looked at one another, expressions partly concealed from the view of their parents, before pressing their heads together in secret conversation. Even so, Hermione and Severus could see the cogs twirling in their brains. Never before had their parents been so at a loss for words and they found it just as startling as the adults they discussed quietly.
Closing his eyes momentarily, Severus could clearly see Hogwarts Castle decimated and smoking, as if he stood before it on the day of the Final Battle. Even now, he could taste the bile that had risen in his gullet at the sight of colleagues and students alike, lying broken and dead as far as his eyes could see.
Knowing that his mind had wandered and where it had taken him, Hermione reclaimed the loosening grip on his hand and leaned into his shoulder. Her lips pressed to his ear and she pleaded softly, "Come back to me."
It was her voice, the sound that he had come to love above all others, that brought him back. They sat at their dining room table, on a perfectly ordinary Tuesday afternoon, in the life they had built for themselves, and the Battle of Hogwarts was nothing but a memory. Hermione's voice always drew him to whatever moment they were currently living-pulling him from the deepest recesses of his mind.
She smiled at him when he finally met her worried eyes, and while their children still sat in discussion, Hermione pressed a kiss to stubble littered jaw. They both ignored the faint trembling of his hands, knowing that it would fade as it always did.
"Mum?" Crispin asked.
Hermione's smile turned to their son. "Yes, sweetheart?"
"Why did you get involved in the war? If you were so young, how could anyone have thought it okay to let you fight?"
Hermione paused for a moment, thinking on how to formulate a response to question she had asked herself repeatedly for years. "I was young, yes. I was eleven when I started at Hogwarts and incidentally, that was the year I became involved in the war without really knowing I had done so."
"That doesn't make sense," Attina replied, shaking her dark curls in protest.
"You see, that was the year I met Uncle Harry. Voldemort, or Tom Riddle, was just a story to me at the time-a fantastical character I had read about in Hogwarts: A History, much as he may be to you both. I couldn't have known that befriending Harry would drag me into a war I was too young fight, but even if I had known, I don't think it would have made a difference: Harry was the first friend I'd ever made and I probably would have rushed in head first if I'd had knowledge of Tom's return and his plots to destroy your uncle."
"Your mother did not have much of a choice in the matter, I'm afraid," Severus stated. "Albus Dumbledore knew that Harry Potter would need Hermione Granger just as much as she had need of him in those early days."
Both of their children scribbled away on their parchments, taking notes for their assignments, neither of them looked up as they wrote hastily, while Attina fired the next question:
"Papa, why are people so afraid of you? Is it because of the war?"
Hermione pressed her free hand to her lips to stifle a giggle-shocked at the question itself, and less at the fact that her children had the audacity to ask such a thing. They were, after all, children of the most feared Potions Master known in Hogwarts' History.
Bringing a finger to his lips, much as he had done when lecturing to his classes, Severus traced the thin lines before tapping them in thought.
When Hermione had announced her first pregnancy, Severus had panicked immediately: What if he was just as pitiless and abusive as his own father had been? What if his children were mocked due to their name? What if when they learned the truth of their father, they no longer loved him?
He could think of little else that would pain him so severely.
"I want you both to understand something: The man I was and the man I am now, are not the same. You know of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters?" His children nodded quickly.
When he knew he had their undivided attention, quills forgotten momentarily, Severus untangled his hand from his wife's grip, before unbuttoning his long shirtsleeve. Rolling it backwards and pushing it up his forearm, he exposed the pale length of his left arm: unblemished besides the wiry hairs that grew there.
Producing his wand, he pressed the tip to his skin and whispered, "Finite Incantatem."
As soon as the spell had left his lips, a bruise appeared on his forearm: a misshapen wound, ugly and deep purple, as if the welt were fresh.
"Oh, no," Attina gasped.
"I am sorry, Beastie," Severus apologized to their youngest child. "I made many poor choices, my decision to join Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters chiefly among them. There are things that I cannot forgive myself for and my reputation still precedes me, it seems. I was a nasty task master when I taught at Hogwarts, in part because of my association with the Death Eaters."
For the first time in the lives of his children, they were afraid of their father.
Severus could see the distrust in the constriction of their pupils and he could hear the shallow breathing that began to issue from across the table, but it was the smell of fear that radiated off of his children in waves that disturbed him most.
Terror had a particular scent and the familiarity of it assaulted Severus from where he sat. It was panicked, unhealthy sweat, with a twang of something that was beyond explanation.
There had been a time when Severus was unable to walk into a classroom in Hogwarts without the stench issuing from his students, as if they had bathed in their anxieties before lecture. His victims had reeked of it-along with piss and vomit.
None of the regret he felt at remembering those he terrorized matched the remorse he experienced knowing that children were sincerely frightened of their father.
Replacing the glamour to what was left of his Dark Mark, Severus righted his shirt and waited for his children to speak. When it seemed they were too stunned to form a single sentence, he carried on the conversation.
"I quickly realized my mistake and appealed to Albus Dumbledore, pledging my loyalty to the Order of the Phoenix and to the side of the light. Much of what I did was done in the hopes to betray Tom Riddle and bring about his downfall, but I chose freely to bind myself to him long before I made the decision to bind myself to the light."
Both children sat in shocked silence, staring at their father as if they had never seen him before.
On more than one occasion, they had been teased by classmates because of their surname, but had never dared to think their father had been anything more than notorious due to his teaching style. There had been times when their parents had insisted they go by Granger, as opposed to Snape, and their reluctance to explain why finally made sense.
"Your father is a very brave man," Hermione defended. "Without his contributions, we would not have defeated Tom Riddle."
Crispin scratched the dried tip of his quill against his head. "Is that why Al is named after you?"
Their father grimaced painfully at the thought of Potter's youngest boy and the absolute torture he would go through in life, sporting the ridiculous name Albus Severus. Unfortunately for the boy, it could not be shortened to his initials: A.S. Potter was even less becoming.
"Much to his chagrin, I'm sure," Severus ground out.
"It is a mouthful," Hermione agreed.
Attina agreed with a nod of her head, turning back to her parchment to jot down a few words. For the moment, Crispin and his sister had moved from fear of their father to amusement and the vice that had gripped Severus' heart loosened.
The corners of Severus mouth twitched upward in the approximation of smile. His children amazed him on a daily basis- it was their resilience, their tenacity, their endless questions about the world around them, that inspired him most.
"It's getting late, I think we have time for one more question before it's time to begin on dinner. What will it be?" His wife asked.
Both children groaned at her announcement, unhappy to end the discussion where it was, before it had truly begun. But there would be more time-tomorrow and the next night, and the rest of their lives to learn the truth about their parents and the sacrifices they had made to provide a safer world for their children to grow and thrive in.
"You never answered the first question!" Crispin protested.
"Right you are." Raising an eyebrow at his son, Severus attempted to define what living through the Second Great Wizarding War had truly felt like. "In a word, it was horrifying. Many times, both your mother and I came very close to being killed. We lost friends, people we considered to be family, and watched as families were torn apart by the fighting. The war is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. It is very nearly impossible to describe, and someday, I may allow you look in my Pensieve to view my memories, but for now, I hope my answer, as insufficient as it may be, is enough."
"I have something for you both," Hermione said quickly before leaving the table.
It only took her a few moments to return to their dining room, the latest edition of Hogwarts: A History tucked beneath her arm and a smile on her face.
Standing behind her two children, she placed the tome between them and opened it before them.
"This was my favorite book when I was a student and each year, more history is added to it." She fingered the lettering lovingly before turning to one of the many dog-eared pages.
"You see," his wife pointed to a photo he could not distinguish from where he sat, but immediately he knew which photo she had brought to their attention. "This was taken a few months after the Final Battle, when Hogwarts finally reopened."
The picture was one of his favorites and he could clearly see in his mind's eye, Hermione standing at his side, blue dress robes and unruly hair whirling around her in that summer's breeze. Severus had his arm around her and while she looked at him adoringly, Severus had remained stone-faced and stern, until she had raised herself on her tip-toes to plant a kiss on his cheek.
It had been their first public appearance as Hermione Granger and Severus Snape and would later be the photo published in the Prophet accompanied by the announcement of their engagement.
"There's an entire chapter on your father!" Hermione said excitedly. "He was much more active in the war than I ever was, but there's a few sections about me as well. We may not be able to answer all of your questions, but this may help."
Attina flipped through the many paged book, glancing at chapter titles and the brightly colored photos as they shot past, while Crispin asked her to slow down to give him a chance to see as well.
When the excitement died down, Crispin asked one last question: "Would you change any of it?"
Hermione took a deep breath as she sat next to him once more and he gripped her knee where it wiggled beneath the table anxiously. She chewed on the inside of her lip-a habit she had exhibited for as long as he had known her, before swallowing heavily. "No, I couldn't. If one thing had happened differently, Tom Riddle might still be alive. It's possible your father and I might not have fallen in love. I wouldn't want to live in a world that existed without you or your sister."
Many nights, Hermione had wondered that very thing: if she could go back and change one thing that had happened, one life lost, would she, if it meant the world they lived in now didn't exist? She had kept him up to all hours, panicking about her choices, frantic and irrational, weighing the different lives they could have lived against each other. The guilt of living and living well had troubled her far more than either of them could have imagined.
"War comes with the unspoken truth of casualties and tragedies. I would have gladly given my life to prevent Lord Voldemort from defeating your uncle, but I am grateful it did not come to that," Severus answered.
Their son began to ask another question, when his stomach grumbled hungrily and his children burst into laughter.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly, coloring staining his pale cheeks.
Hermione rose from the table, running her clammy hands discreetly along the rough material of her trousers. "It's time for dinner and I think Crispin would agree. Wash up and we'll eat shortly."
When their children left the room, Hogwarts: A History opened between them, Severus met Hermione at the counter where she rested heavily against the marble. Wrapping his arms around her middle, he pulled her back into the warm wall of his chest and buried his great nose into her frizzy hair, breathing in the familiar scent of their home and his wife.
"We always knew this day would come, I just never imagined how hard it would to discuss with our children." Hermione reiterated his statement from earlier. "I know it's better for them to learn this way, in our home where they are loved and cared for, but I wasn't prepared."
Pressing a kiss to her hair, Severus hummed the affirmative and willed away his own anxiety.
After dinner had been prepared and eaten, after home work had been completed and reviewed, and the children had been tucked in bed, Hermione and Severus settled in their own room.
Severus once more removed the glamour obscuring his Dark Mark and Hermione removed her own, revealing the word Mudblood etched deeply into her forearm.
As it happened every night, Hermione fought back the urge to hide the blemish in shame and Severus kissed the wound with reverence, reminding her that she had no need to hide from him.
Severus warded the door, allowing no sound to exit without inhibiting their ability to hear if either Attina or Crispin came to them in the middle of the night, woken by monsters in their dreams. More often than either Severus or Hermione would admit, they too woke screaming and bathed in sweat, disturbed by night terrors and there was little doubt in either of their minds that they would sleep fitfully that night.